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Simple 404


404error404 pages are one of the most boring pages on your site but they are also one of the most important.
Imagine going somewhere you have never been before with no signposts to direct you ( and no sat nav) where would you go next?
You would either guess and try to navigate your way round or you would simply turn back.
In web terms this is very bad, it creates a barrier with you and your visitors on either side.
Checking the web I see quite a lot of websites that simply leave it to the software they use or they simply don’t add one. If you are one of these people then you are probably losing visitors on a daily basis.
How many times do you think in the last week you have encountered a 404 page yourself?
How many of these have given you help in finding your desired page or at least given you  way to look further in their website?
A user who has just come to your website may feel as though they have done something wrong like clicking something they shouldn’t have so this is your chance to reassure them and make them feel OK about your website. This is also a good opportunity to create a feel good moment with your visitor.
Don’t make it another opportunity to try and sell them something this is not the time to do this, you will probably put them off and they will click away from your site as quickly as they can.
I use WordPress a lot and I have created a simple 404 page that you can copy and paste the text into your 404 page.

WordPress has a standard 404 page built in but it simply says “ Error 404 – Not Found†this is not exactly very useful and it can be enough to make your visitor leave your website. They may have come to the 404 page from various different origins including an old link in the search engines or a bad link from another website or even an incorrect link from your own website. You need to give the visitor every chance to find what they are looking for or at least give them a way of looking through the content on your website.
Open up 404.php in your theme folder and you will see something like:

<?php
get_header();
?>
<div id="content">
<h2>Error 404 - Not Found</h2>
</div>
<?php get_sidebar(); ?>
<?php get_footer(); ?>

Instead of the Error 404 - Not Found why not use something like this:

<h2>Sorry page not found</h2>
<p>We are sorry the page you were looking for cannot be found. It may have been removed, had it's name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.</p>
<ul>
<li>If you typed the URL, check the spelling </li>
<li>If it is a page link that is incorrect, please could you report the bad link by using the contact form. </li>
<li>Start from the <a href="/">The Funk House</a> home page and look for links to the information you want. </li>
<li>Click the <a href="javascript:history.back(1);">back</a> button and try another link. </li>
<li>Try our <a href="/site-map/">site map</a> to find what you are looking for. </li>
</ul>

This gives them some reassuring text to let them know the content they were looking for has either been moved, deleted or changed. This does not try to put any blame on the user, it does politely ask them to double check their spelling if they typed in the web address but if they didn’t then it provides the user with a few options to choose from to decide what to do next.
The first option is to point them towards the home page so they can start from the beginning.
The next option is to give them the chance to go back from where they came from in case they came from a link on your own website. If they have JavaScript enabled then the link will allow them to move back or they can click back on their browser.
It also gives them the option to report the error by using your contact form, this is good as it shows you at least care about it and not trying to point them in another direction.
Finally there is a link to your site map, this is very important as it can show them other information on your website but it is a helpful way to find the information they were looking for originally.
You may need to amend it slightly as it links to the site map which you may or may not have on your website. You could also take out the Javascript and use some PHP code to get the referrer.
Remember always be polite and always be helpful.


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Posted by Jaron in the catagory of... General Interest

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This entry was posted to Pro Blog Tips on Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 at 7:57 pm and is filed under... General Interest. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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